The main difference between consequences and punishment is that consequences teach children to take responsibility for their actions and learn from their mistakes, whereas punishment ensures compliance by making a child feel bad.
Most parents and teachers do not understand the difference between consequences and punishment. Both these can correct a child’s bad behaviour. However, punishment can make a child feel hurt or ashamed, whereas consequences help a child to understand what he did wrong, without harming him.
Key Terms Covered
1. What is Punishment
– Definition, Examples
2. What are Consequences
– Definition, Effects, Types
3. What is the Difference Between Consequences and Punishment
– Comparison of Key Differences
Children, Consequences, Punishment
What is Punishment?
Punishment is the infliction of some kind of pain or loss upon a person for a misdeed. Parents often punish their children for their misdemeanours. In other words, punishments are about parents trying to make their kids suffer for mistakes they make. The goal of a punishment is to impose authority, shame, guilt or harm. Punishments often make kids feel bad. They can be physical/corporal punishment (spanking, hitting, etc.) and/or emotional and verbal abuse (ridiculing, yelling, threatening, withdrawing love and attention). Punishments can also come in the form of drastic measures, such as starvation, or even physical abuse. Let’s look at some examples:
- Spanking a child for disobeying
- Washing a child’s mouth with soap for talking back to parents
- Grounding a child for getting low marks in a test
Parents usually punish children out of anger, not out of the desire to teach them the consequences of their actions. Moreover, punishments can often turn out to be counterproductive; when you punish a child for his or her mistakes, the child might direct your anger at you instead of understanding what he or she did wrong. Therefore, punishments rarely teach children what they did wrong; instead, it causes resentment, anger, shame and embarrassment.
What are Consequences?
Consequences are the direct results of an action. Consequences help a child to learn to do better in the future. They also teach a child about taking responsibility for his or her actions and the ability to learn from mistakes. Consequences can also teach a child how to develop an inner voice of self-control.
Consequences can be natural or imposed. Natural consequences are the direct results of the child’s actions. For example, getting injured while jumping off a table or going hungry after skipping meals. Imposed consequences are those imposed by a parent or teacher.
The way a parent communicate with the child can also make a difference between consequences and punishment. When giving consequences, you have to be calm and understanding. Moreover, you should always focus on the child’s behaviour and what he did wrong. Make sure that the child knows what he did wrong and the consequences of his actions. Most importantly, giving consequences should not include anger, yelling, rejecting, causing shame and embarrassment.
Difference Between Consequences and Punishment
Consequences are the direct result of an action, whereas punishment is the infliction of some kind of pain or loss upon a person for a misdeed.
Moreover, consequences can be natural or imposed, whereas punishments can be corporal, verbal or emotional.
The goal of consequences is to teach a child to learn from mistakes and to take responsibility for his actions. However, the goal of punishment is to make a child suffer; to shame, guilt or impose the parent’s authority.
Behaviour of Parents
When parents are giving consequences, they are calm and understanding while parents who punish children may be angry and out of control.
Relationship Between Parents and Children
Giving consequences help parents to maintain a healthy relationship with their children while punishing a child may prove to be counterproductive as the child grows to resent the parent instead of learning from his mistakes.
Child’s Future Behavior
When you give consequences to a child, he may not repeat the mistake because he understands what he did wrong. In contrast, if you punish a child, he may not repeat the mistake for fear of punishment itself, not because he understands what he did wrong.
Consequences are the direct result of an action, whereas punishment is the infliction of some kind of pain or loss upon a person for a misdeed. The main difference between consequences and punishment is that consequences teach children to take responsibility for their actions and learn from their mistakes, whereas punishment ensures compliance by making a child feel bad.
1. Lehman, James. “How to Give Kids Consequences That Work.” Empowering Parents, Available here.